RCC Honors History Project

“The Liberator” -first issue

Posted by sethrd23 on November 24, 2009

This periodical, issued in Boston, decried slavery as a national sin and promoted the immediate, unconditional emancipation of slaves in the United States.

Liberator Editorial, First Issue (1831)

From: Writings and Speeches of William Lloyd Garrison, p. 62-64

Editorial from First Issue of the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison

COMMENCEMENT OF THE LIBERATOR.

In the month of August, I issued proposals for publishing ‘The Liberator’ in Washington city; but the enterprise, though hailed approvingly in different sections of the country, was palsied by public indifference. Since that time, the removal of the ‘Genius of Universal Emancipation’ to the Seat of Government has rendered less imperious the establishment of a similar periodical in that quarter.

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free States–and particularly in New England–than at the South. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill, and in the birth-place of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe; yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let Southern oppressors tremble; let their secret abettors tremble; let their Northern apologists tremble; let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

Assenting to the ‘self-evident truths’ maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, ‘that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights–among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park Street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren, the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the ‘Genius of Universal Emancipation,’ at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My conscience is now satisfied.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man, whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present! I am in earnest. I will not equivocate–I will not excuse–I will not retreat a single inch–and I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended, that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective, and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question, my influence, humble as it is, is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years–not perniciously, but beneficially–not as a curse, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right. I desire to thank God, that he enables me to disregard ‘the fear of man which bringeth a snare,’ and to speak his truth in its simplicity and power. And here I close with this fresh dedication:–

‘Oppression! I have seen thee, face to face, And met thy cruel eye and cloudy brow; But thy soul-withering glance I fear not now–For dread to prouder feelings doth give place, Of deep abhorrence! Scorning the disgrace Of slavish knees that at thy footstool bow, I also kneel–but with far other vow Do hail thee and thy herd of hirelings base:–I swear, while life-blood warms my throbbing veins, Still to oppose and thwart, with heart and hand, Thy brutalizing sway–till Africa’s chains Are burst, and Freedom rules the rescued land, Trampling Oppression and his iron rod:–Such is the vow I take–so help me, God!’

Boston, January 1, 1831.

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4 Responses to ““The Liberator” -first issue”

  1. jas1wills said

    I love the part where he clears his conscience by apologizing for being timid in a speech about gradual emancipation. And the poetry at the end here is strong!

  2. sethrd23 said

    I also enjoy his passion for being passionate 🙂 Its is refreshing to see that this article attacks people trying to stop slavery in an ineffective way, as much as it criticizes people trying to perpetuate slavery.

    In this article, he seems to present the idea that being timid is a great way to fail in the effort to bring emancipation. I find that this idea really comes across because of the poetic language he seems to use at the end. What could be less timid than proclaiming ones goals in prose? He also uses the analogy of telling a man that his house is on fire really well. I think that it causes the reader to be forced to view slavery as an issue as urgent as a burning house.

  3. nreid35 said

    That part was pretty great. Power to the people, and such. Speaking of power to the people, isn’t it interesting that even today we have to have articles and discussions like this? You would think that so many years later we might have evovled and put less emphasis on everyone’s differences, but they still seem to be what everyone talks about these days.

  4. elsiegonzalez said

    “Let Southern oppressors tremble; let their secret abettors tremble; let their Northern apologists tremble; let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.”

    I absolutely love this statement, his repetition of the word “tremble” allows his argument to become to so much stronger, and shows, like you guys have mentioned, his tremendous passion for the abolition of slavery. I’m getting such a huge sense of strength from this quote, imagine how much more powerful it would be if we would have heard it live!

    “I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man, whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present! I am in earnest. I will not equivocate–I will not excuse–I will not retreat a single inch–and I will be heard.”

    This issue of the Liberator, I think exemplifies Garrison as a writer. The literary devices in this piece are endless… the fire house analogy is great, and he really makes good use of repetition (“I will not…”). This piece has passion & commitment written all over it.

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